Physical activity is an essential part of overall health and wellness, but the unfortunate truth is that exercising and sports always come with a certain degree of injury risk. There are many different possible injuries that can happen to your lower limbs, but a common one we treat here at Advanced Foot and Ankle is Achilles tendinitis.
The Achilles Tendon
The body relies on connective tissues to keep everything in place and promote movement. Both tendons and ligaments function this way, and the key difference is the tissues they connect. Ligaments connect bones to other bones; tendons connect bones to muscles.
Tendons are non-elastic and tough, but the toughest of all is the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. This tendon is responsible for moving the foot up and down, depending on whether the calf muscle contracts or expands. In addition to connecting the heel and calf, the Achilles also absorbs some of the tremendous force loads that come from high-impact activities.
How Achilles Tendinitis Develops
Tendinitis is a type of inflammation that happens when the Achilles tendon is subjected to either intense or repetitive strain during physical activity. More specifically, the condition develops from sudden increases in workload, tight calf muscles, or a bone spur that forms in the back of the heel where the tendon connects to the calcaneus (heel bone).
The Achilles is the body’s strongest tendon, but it weakens as we age. Accordingly, older people are more susceptible to this particular injury than are those who are younger. It also tends to be more prevalent among males than females.
Besides age and gender, other risk factors include medications, training choices, medical conditions, and physical issues. Certain antibiotics lead to higher rates of tendinitis, as does running in shoes that are worn-out. Individuals who have high blood pressure, psoriasis, flatfoot, and/or are overweight, are more likely to experience this Achilles injury.
Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendinits
The primary symptoms of tendinitis are pain, tenderness, and stiffness. Achilles tendon pain often starts out as being a mild ache above the heel or in the back of the leg following sports activities or running. As the injury goes untreated, the pain will increase in severity and frequency. The tenderness and stiffness are most often experienced in the morning, but improve with mild activity.
Treating and Preventing Achilles Tendinitis
Treatment for the condition can begin with at-home care, especially RICE therapy. Taking time to rest, ice, compress, and elevate the affected limb will reduce pain and inflammation, while also giving the body a chance to begin mending the damaged tissue.
Professional care may include medication, exercise, orthotic devices, and sometimes even surgery or laser therapy. Medications like naproxen and ibuprofen are often effective at reducing both pain and inflammation, but we can prescribe stronger medication when needed. Stretches, strengthening exercises, and orthotics help to promote healing and strengthen the injured tendon.
Surgery is reserved only for rare, severe cases. In most instances, this treatment means that the Achilles has become torn and requires a surgical procedure to fix it.
Professional Treatment for Achilles Tendon Injuries
It is our hope that you are able to prevent a case of Achilles tendinitis by using the above preventative measures, but Advanced Foot and Ankle can provide effective treatment if you sustain the injury. Find out more by calling our Twin Falls office at (208) 731-6321 or our Burley, ID office at (208) 312-4646. If you need professional care for any lower limb issue, be sure to request your appointment with us over the phone or online today.